To the Tulsa Shock's credit, they didn't play quite as poorly in their 20th straight loss as the 74-57 final score might suggest.
After being down only three points at halftime, the Seattle Storm used a strong third quarter to pull away and expand the lead to 15 points. The Storm shot 56.3 percent, shot 8-for-8 from the free throw line to match the Shock's production for the entire game, and only turned the ball over once against a Shock defense that provided little resistance around the basket.
"We feel like we work hard so we know that isn't the problem - we have to play a little smarter," said Shock forward Tiffany Jackson. "The fact that we put them at the free-throw line 20-something times and we only went eight ... those are things we have to recognize - to go harder and to not foul."
The Storm did go to the free throw line 26 times compared to the Shock's eight attempts, yet aside from that third quarter performance, the Shock stayed with the Storm. The fourth quarter was played pretty much even and the final margin of 17 points was actually the largest in the game after the Storm got a few baskets in garbage time.
Once again Storm center Lauren Jackson had a nice outing with a game-high 14 points and three rebounds in only 15 minutes as she continues to get into game shape after her extended injury-absence. One thing Storm coach Brian Agler wants Jackson to work on as she adjusts is spending a bit more time around the basket - tonight five of her nine shots were from beyond the 3-point arc, although she did have four free throws as well.
"She has to really want to be around the basket," said Agler when asked about Jackson's performance and progress. "Coming off injury, (it) is not something that she has a great desire to do although she's very effective doing it. My rule with Lauren is sort of 50/50 - fifty percent of her time around the rim and 50 percent of her time playing naturally. She likes to pick and pop, play facing the basket. She's very accepting of that and if fact she's probably more difficult to defend that way when she's moving around."
While Agler might want more from Jackson around the basket, guard Tanisha Wright showed off some nice post moves against the Shock's smaller guards and complemented Jackson with 12 points.
Shock wing and former Storm player Sheryl Swoopes played the second most minutes in the game and finished tied for a team-high 12 points with Tiffany Jackson, who added nine rebounds.
"We're warriors, we're fighting, but it's a test of character for us," said Shock coach Teresa Edwards. "We have a lot of young ladies with a lot of pride. Sheryl (Swoopes) is doing a great job being a leader. That's coming to the forefront and showing off more than anything. She's not going to let us die and sit around and accept where we are. It shows every day."
It wasn't a particularly dominant win and, quite frankly, not exactly the most engaging game to watch, but what's apparent as the Storm approach the playoffs is that with Jackson back in the lineup they have the ability to turn it on and put teams away almost at will.
"We missed a lot of shots - we had some opportunities to knock down shots we just didn't them down," said Wright of the Storm, who shot only 18.8 percent in the second quarter. "Our defense really held strong tonight even when we weren't knocking down shots, we were able to get stops."
With the win, the Storm improve to 16-12 and are only a fraction of a percentage behind the second place Phoenix Mercury who will be on the road against the Connecticut Sun tomorrow night, giving the Storm a chance to move into second place.